Former UK minister in Pakistani 'sex gangs' row

9th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Britain's former foreign minister faced growing accusations of racial stereotyping Sunday after saying that gangs of Pakistani men saw young white girls as "easy meat" and were grooming them for sex.

Jack Straw -- who also served as interior minister and justice minister in the previous Labour government -- triggered a row on Friday when he said there was evidence of a "specific problem" in the Pakistani community.

Straw told BBC television that although most sex offenders in Britain were white, "there is a specific problem which involves Pakistani heritage men... who target vulnerable young white girls."

His comments came after the two ringleaders of a gang which raped and sexually abused vulnerable girls aged between 12 and 18 -- often after plying them with alcohol or drugs -- were jailed earlier in the week.

"They see these young women, white girls who are vulnerable, some of them in care... who they think are easy meat. And because they're vulnerable they ply them with gifts, they give them drugs, and then of course they're trapped," he said.

Straw was criticised Sunday of stereotyping by charities, pressure groups and even a member of his own party over the comments.

"It's totally inflammatory for him to use a phrase like that," Christine Beddoe, director of End Child Trafficking and Prostitution, told the Independent on Sunday newspaper.

Labour MP Keith Vaz, the chairman of parliament's home affairs select committee, who is of Indian origin, said Straw's comments were "pretty dangerous."

"I have a lot of Pakistanis in my constituency, so does Jack Straw. I don't think this is a cultural problem," he told BBC radio. "I don't think you can stereotype an entire community."

But the far-right British National Party jumped on Straw's comments, saying Sunday it was launching a leaflet entitled "Our Children Are Not Halal Meat" in which it would "warn school kids of the threat from Muslim sex grooming gangs."

Britain has a large ethnic Pakistani community of over one million people.

© 2011 AFP

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